STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good Morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
To understand this next story, keep two facts in mind.
INSKEEP: The first is that many outsiders play a role in Afghanistan, like the United States, its European allies and the United Nations.
MONTAGNE: The second is that Afghanistan is going badly enough that the outsiders aren't sure who to blame.
INSKEEP: Unhappiness with the country's flawed election burst to the surface over the weekend. The top U.N. official in Afghanistan is defending his own role in that election.
NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Kabul.
JACKIE NORTHAM: It was the type of press conference befitting a major announcement by the international players in Afghanistan. At the center was Kai Eide, a tall, blonde Norwegian and the head of the U.N. mission here. He was flanked at the head table by somberly dressed ambassadors from Britain, France and the U.S. In the front row were even more diplomats.
But this wasn't a press conference to outline, say, a change in strategy for Afghanistan, it was an opportunity for Eide to respond to some serious allegations of misconduct by Peter Galbraith, his former deputy. Galbraith was fired late last month. Since then, he's written a number of blistering criticisms in national newspapers and magazines against the U.N. in general, and Eide in particular, about how the elections were run. Yesterday, it was Eide's turn.
Mr. KAI EIDE (U.N. Special Representative, Afghanistan): I have decided to address you today; not to defend, not to attack, but to explain.
NORTHAM: Eide sought to dispel many of Galbraith's charges that he refused to hand over data from election workers showing the extent of fraud during the recent presidential election; that he allowed polling stations to open in many dangerous areas of the country where voter turnout was expected to be low, but the ballot boxes came back jammed full. And the most serious, that Eide simply chose to ignore the fraud.
On Sunday, Eide admitted there was widespread fraud, but he denied he helped cover it up. There was a tinge, in Eide's remarks, that Galbraith had betrayed his longtime friend and one time boss.
Mr. EIDE: Yes, it has affected me. It's been attacking my integrity. I think it is - has not been dignified, it's not been fair, it's not been true. Of course, for the U.N. mission, we have suffered from that. And of course it has also had an impact on the election process because it has, in fact, considered to heightening the temperature of the discussion. Of course, these last few weeks has had a negative impact.
NORTHAM: This very public dustup between Eide and Galbraith comes at a critical juncture. The scale of the fraud throws into question the legitimacy of a new Afghan government. And there is already waning support by many nations providing troops and money for the mission in Afghanistan. That includes the U.S.
The press conference was an effort, not only to help bolster Eide's standing, but to show unity for the mission. Eide said the international community in Afghanistan speaks with one voice.
Mr. EIDE: I think the presence of so many of my colleagues, also here, show one thing; there has been a remarkable unity inside the international community. There has been complaints in the past, that the international community speaks with so many voices that it becomes confusing for the government and for the people. That is not the case.
NORTHAM: The ambassadors surrounding Eida gave half-smiles and nodded silently. They weren't allowed to take questions or make comments during the press conference. There was a sense that, if in a private setting, they would have clapped the U.N. chief on the back. It's unclear whether Eide's remarks will help repair the fractures created by his dispute with his former deputy, Galbraith, or inject confidence into the tarnished election process.
Jackie Northam, NPR News, Kabul.
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